Terrible Two

Renee Polreis and her adopted son had a miserable life together--until someone put an end to it.

"[Renee] told me about this one well-to-do family in Greeley that had adopted a boy," Bright recalls. "They told her that they'd put locks on the inside of their bedroom door because they were afraid that he would come into their room at night and kill them. They said they'd lived in fear for years and years and that as the boy got older and stronger, they became more afraid. He finally ended up in a juvenile facility.

"I think that all that negative information didn't help," Bright adds. "I just wonder...would she have been so afraid of him at the end if she hadn't been told all this?"

Bright wasn't the only one of Renee's friends who expressed alarm at Renee's growing cynicism toward David--or about her rush to embrace any and all disciplinary methods offered by friends or therapists.

Renee had allegedly begun disciplining her sons in a way taught to her by Lynn Roche, a woman who sometimes babysat for the Polreis boys. According to what social worker Smreker told police, Roche said during a deposition last month that when her own children were bad, she'd take the child into the bathroom and explain his offense to him. She said she'd then make the child bare his behind before spanking him one or two times with a wooden spoon. Then, she said, she'd say a prayer over the child.

Smreker also told police that Renee's brother, Kevin Risk, said that he'd seen Renee use that same method on Isaac.

Renee's friend Kathy Brown told police that Renee told her it was important to show David who was the boss, even in matters like potty training. According to Brown, Renee said David had been manipulating her through his toilet habits and that as a result, she was making David get up in the middle of the night and stand in front of the toilet until he urinated. Renee told Brown it seemed to work.

Edick recommended to Renee several times that she take David to another therapist, one who specialized in attachment disorder. She urged Renee to meet with Lloyd Boggs, a licensed clinical social worker from Fort Collins who was trained at the Evergreen Attachment Center.

By the time Renee did call Boggs, in late January 1996, she was clearly desperate. According to Edick's statement to police, Renee said she'd told Boggs that she and her husband were planning a short trip to Mexico without the children and that if he could not see her before she left the country, she was never going to come back home.

Bright says Renee was extremely upset at the time over an incident in which David had bitten her finger and refused to let go. Renee told friends that the boy chomped down hard on her finger and that when she screamed, he got a look on his face that suggested he was enjoying her pain. The situation terrified her, a teary Renee allegedly told Bright.

Renee did see Boggs before leaving on the trip, Edick told police, and the session left her feeling more optimistic. According to Edick, Renee said she thought Boggs was "wonderful."

However, Renee was less enthusiastic when she and her husband returned from their trip. Edick told police of a comment she heard Renee make--that Mexico was heaven and she had come back to hell.

Renee and Dave Polreis returned from Mexico in early February. Less than a week later, on Friday, February 9, Renee drove her husband to the Greeley airport for a flight to Houston, where Dave Polreis planned to visit an old friend. Renee then spent part of her day at home, catching up with her mother and her mother's friend, Kathy Teal.

Smreker told police that in a deposition taken last month, Teal said that David sat on the floor and did not interact with any of the three women. The boy, Teal reportedly added, was still wearing his pajamas, even though it was after 3 p.m.

Alice Risk confirmed, Smreker said, that David spent the afternoon sitting by himself and "acting as though he didn't wish to be a part of the family." Although Risk offered to spend the night with her daughter, she instead wound up taking Isaac home with her, leaving Renee with David.

According to Smreker, Risk added in her deposition that she spoke with David by phone later that evening and that he told her he did, in fact, want to be part of the family.

Dave Polreis also called home that night, he told police. When he spoke to Renee sometime between 8 and 9 p.m., he told officers, Renee said nothing to indicate there was a problem.

Kevin Risk's night's sleep ended abruptly at 4 a.m. Saturday when the phone jangled him awake. His sister Renee was on the other end. David, she told him, was choking, and she needed him to come over right away and help her. Risk woke his mother, and the two made the short drive to his sister's house.

When the Risks arrived at the Polreis home, Kevin told a police detective, they ran to an upstairs bathroom where they found David lying on his back. Renee was giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to her son, Kevin Risk said, and he could see a brown fluid flowing from the boy's nose.

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